Aleksander Doba

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Aleksander Doba in 2020
Sea kayak used by Doba for his 2010 Atlantic crossing

Aleksander Doba (9 September 1946 – 22 February 2021) was a Polish kayaker known primarily for his long voyages crossing oceans. In 2010 and again in 2013 he kayaked across the Atlantic Ocean westward under his own power. The two voyages were the longest open-water kayak voyages ever made. He was named 2015 Adventurer of the Year by National Geographic.[1] In 2017 he completed an eastward kayaking trip across the Atlantic.[2] He died while climbing Kilimanjaro.[3]


Doba first tried kayaking at age 34 on a trip organised by the company he was working for.[4] He quickly started going on kayaking expeditions regularly. He went on to win the gold medal at the Open Academic Polish Championships in Whitewater Kayaking in 2003 at age 57 and defended the title the next year.[5][6]

Doba's first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean was from Senegal to Brazil in 2010 and spanned 5394 kilometers.[7][8] He was 65 years old when he undertook this journey. It was accomplished in a 7 meter sea kayak and set a record for the longest open-water crossing ever undertaken by a kayaker, at roughly 99 days (the previous longest kayak crossing belonged to Peter Bray who traveled from Newfoundland to Ireland in 2001 and took over 76 days). While it was not the first transatlantic kayak crossing in history, before that only one person, Peter Bray, accomplished it without the help of a sail, relying on muscle-power alone and Doba was the first one to travel this way from continent to continent and not island to island.[9][4] Doba's journey started at 15:30 Polish time[10] on 26 October 2010 in Dakar, Africa, and ended when he reached Brazil, touching dry land at 10:12 local time for the first time in 98 days, 23 hours, and 42 min. He then reached Acaraú at 17:50 local time (99 days, 6 h, 20 min).[11] His mean speed was 2.26 km/h, and he averaged 54 km per 24 hours, with a maximum 24‑hour distance of 126.5 km.[7] When he arrived in Brazil he weighed 64 kg. He lost 14 kg in 14 weeks of the journey.[10]

After resting there, he initially planned to paddle another 6,000 kilometers north along the shorelines of the Americas to Washington, D.C.[12] However, he eventually decided to transport his transatlantic kayak to Peru instead and embarked on a journey down the Amazon River but after being attacked and robbed twice in Brazil he had to quit.[13]

In October 5, 2013, at age 67, he departed from Lisbon (Portugal) for a second transatlantic voyage, with the intention of paddling 5,400 miles across the Atlantic's widest point. He arrived at New Smyrna Beach, Florida on April 19, 2014. The voyage took him 196 days to complete, and he paddled 6,300 miles.[14]

On September 3, 2017, Doba completed his third solo transatlantic kayak trip when he kayaked into a port in Le Conquet, France from Barnegat Bay in May 2017. He was at sea for 110 consecutive days.[4] He used a 23-foot kayak, weighing 1500 pounds when fully loaded. During the trip, he struggled against storms; his rudder was damaged and had to be repaired by sailors from a merchant vessel.[2]

Doba has also paddled in a kayak with others around the Baltic Sea (in 1999, 80 days, 4227 km), from Police to Narvik (in 2000, 101 days, 5369 km) and around Lake Baikal (in 2009, 41 days, 2000 km).[15][16] He has also jumped 14 times with parachute, piloted gliders for a total of 250 hours, and practiced cycling. He held a marine yacht skipper certificate.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Aleksander Doba was born 9 September 1946 in Swarzędz, near Poznań, Greater Poland Voivodeship, Poland and lived in Police near Szczecin, West Pomeranian Voivodeship.[4] He studied mechanical engineering at Poznan University of Technology and worked in a chemical factory most of his life.[4][17] With his wife Gabriela he had two sons: Bartłomiej and Czesław.[18]

Doba died while climbing Kilimanjaro on February 22, 2021. According to eyewitness reports he felt well the entire journey but after reaching the top asked for a two-minute break before posing for a photo. He then sat down on a rock and "just fell asleep".[19]

Media appearances[edit]

A documentary about the life of Aleksander Doba entitled Happy Olo was released in 2017.[20] In 2019 he participated in the Polish version of "The Mole" (Agent – Gwiazdy), he was eliminated in the 3rd episode and came in 11th.

Several books were written about his adventures including three written by Doba himself.[21]


  1. ^ "Video: People's Choice Adventurer of the Year Aleksander Doba". National Geographic. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Aleksander Doba Completes His Third Atlantic Crossing in a Kayak". Canoe & Kayak Magazine. 2017-09-06.
  3. ^ Police. Aleksander Doba, honorary citizen of the city, is dead
  4. ^ a b c d e Weil, Elizabeth (2018-03-22). "Why He Kayaked Across the Atlantic at 70 (for the Third Time)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  5. ^ "Wyniki poprzednich edycji". AMP Bystrze.
  6. ^ "Aleksander Doba tym razem świętuje z rodziną". Interia (in Polish). 22 December 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Aleksander Doba". Aleksander Doba. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  8. ^ Bs (3 February 2011). "Transatlantic Kayak Crossing: Success". Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  9. ^ "Wyprawy kajakiem przez Atlantyk". Sama Rama (in Polish).
  10. ^ a b "Aleksander Doba". Aleksander Doba. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  11. ^ "Start". Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  12. ^ "TRANSATLANTYCKA Wyprawa Kajakowa". Arsoba Travel (in Polish).
  13. ^ "Napad z maczetą i koniec rejsu". Rzeczpospolita (in Polish). 2011-06-29.
  14. ^ "Aleksander Doba, Adventurers of the Year 2014/2015 - National Geographic". 6 November 2014. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  15. ^ a b "Arsoba Travel:: sztuka podróżowania - Kajakiem DOOKOŁA BAJKAŁU w pojedynkę :: lato 2009". Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  16. ^ "65 year-old sails Atlantic in kayak". Polskie Radio. February 3, 2011.
  17. ^ "Aleksander Doba - Samotnie Kajakiem Przez Atlantyk". YouTube. 2019-07-23.
  18. ^ "Bio". Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  19. ^ "Wspomnienie Aleksandra Doby. „Na szczycie Olek poprosił o 2 minuty przerwy, usiadł na kamieniu i po prostu zasnął"". Polska Times (in Polish). 2021-02-25.
  20. ^ "Happy Olo". IMDb.
  21. ^ "Książki". Retrieved 25 February 2021.

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